deck of cards with ace being palmed

Students in my classes often tell me about practice tests they’ve found online. More often than not I can’t pass the info along to other students because I can’t vouch for the quality of the materials. Practice tests found online too often fall into one of three categories, any of which makes them invalid for me to recommend. Some are created by well-intentioned but unofficial providers, and are riddled with inaccuracies. I wish I had five dollars for every time a student came to me confused after seeing a poorly written question on a free test they found online. Others are created by competitors to my employer. While they might be useful, I can’t really push people towards them in good conscience, can I? But far more insidious than those are the braindumps (practice test questions identical or almost identical to the actual test questions).

I’ve been surprised when students ask me, why not use braindumps? I understand the pressure. If you don’t pass a certification test you could fail to get a job, or lose your current one. But cheating on a test is just wrong. And it cheapens the certification for everyone. Therefore I try to be careful about the sources I recommend, and it really limits which sources I pass along. Over the years I’ve seen many, many more bad practice test providers than good ones.

Recently a student emailed me asking about a particular provider, one I hadn’t heard of. In researching them I found an interesting resource, CompTIA’s list of unauthorized third party training providers. (CompTIA no longer maintains that page, and refers users to CertGuard.) Though this “naughty list” is necessarily incomplete it’s the best list I’ve seen of known bad practice test sources. It got me looking for a similar list from Microsoft, but no joy. So if you’ve found a practice test online that is relatively inexpensive, promises—guarantees even—that you’ll pass the test, and seems too good to be true … it probably is. One way to make sure is to check it against this list.

Of course that assumes you want to stay legitimate, and for all of our sake I hope you do. Looking at some of the domain names on that list it’s obvious that some people are just looking to pass a test any way they can.